Any practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) will tell you that the fine art of pulse diagnosis requires a combination of diligent study and innate talent. This essential diagnostic tool provides insight into the state of organ health, emotional and psychological functioning as well as concern for ones future health. Originally, pulses were felt at various locations, three on the head, three on the each arm and three on each leg. However, in modern times, the majority of TCM practitioners perform a simplified version which examines three finger positions at three depths referred to as cun, guan and chi. These positions are located along the radial artery of the inner wrist. With nine positions on each wrist, this totals eighteen all together. The quality of each pulse is noted at each location in terms of frequency, rhythm and volume.
The purpose of pulse diagnosis, similar to other types of diagnosis, is to assist the practitioner in obtaining knowledge of the inner workings of ones body, what the cause of disease is and what can be done to resolve the problem. All Chinese medical treatments such as acupuncture and herbal prescriptions use pulse diagnosis as a basis to formulate treatment methods specific to the individuals needs. The pulse reveals the internal and external factors which cause the disease, as well as organs affected by the disease. Unlike western medical concepts of body organs in which organs function individually, eastern concepts of holistic healing such as TCM, acknowledges that relationships do indeed exist between each and every organ. With that, it is essential to achieve balance between all body organs.
The “Organs Network”
The physiological function, pathological changes and mutual relationships held between each organ within our bodies are understood best by a concept known as the Zang-Fu theory. A central feature of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the Zang-Fu theory represents a fine balanced network which is held between the interior organs of the human body and the conditions represented on the exterior due to imbalances between these organs. There are five Zang organs which include the heart, lung, spleen, liver and kidney. Zang organs are typically “solid” yin organs responsible for the manufacturing and storage of blood, body fluid and “Qi” – “ the vital energy of the body. For each Zang organ there is a partnered Fu organ, therefore, a complete system described as Zang-Fu. The Fu organs consist of the small intestine, large intestine, stomach, gallbladder and urinary bladder. These “hallow” yang organs function mainly to receive and digest food, absorb nutrients and excrete waste.
Although Zang organs may differ from Fu organs in terms of their physiological activities, it is apparent that there exists a structural and functional connection by way of meridians (channels of energy which run throughout the body) as well as between the individual organs. The term “organ network” is utilized to indicate that TCM is not interested in the organs as single entities but as extended networks which function throughout the entire body.
Balancing Yin and Yang
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the inner workings of our bodies, and Zang-Fu organs, are seen as a delicate balance held by the Chinese philosophical concepts of yin and yang – two opposing, yet inseparable forces. This concept is best compared to our understanding of day and night, one continually becoming the other, depending on the other for definition. Nighttime grows out of daytime and slowly overtakes it. Then, as daytime approaches, the power of nighttime lessens until daytime takes over the night. This continuous and inevitable cycle is the same as the yin and yang phenomena of TCM. Health is achieved by maintaining harmony between opposing forces in the natural world, therefore, by keeping the body in a “balanced state.” Any disturbance of this natural equilibrium results in blockage to the flow of Qi and the onset of disease.
With a thorough understanding of the Zang-Fu organs and yin yang balance, a simple pulse diagnosis can reveal more than you think. It is with this ancient diagnostic tool that help traditional Chinese medical practitioners heal from the inside out.